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Keeping the streets safe in the small hours

Hervey Bay police officers Senior Constable Mick Bleakley, Constable Sarah Green, Police Liaison Officer Goomblar Shillingsworth, Constable Leigh Nancarrow and Constable Pete Smith support the Chronicle's #HandsOff campaign.
Hervey Bay police officers Senior Constable Mick Bleakley, Constable Sarah Green, Police Liaison Officer Goomblar Shillingsworth, Constable Leigh Nancarrow and Constable Pete Smith support the Chronicle's #HandsOff campaign. Alistair Brightman

WHEN most families are fast asleep, Mick Bleakley is one of the many officers leaving his behind to start a gruelling 10pm-6am night shift.

For seven nights, every five weeks, he is effectively "alienated" from his family, going to sleep when his soon-to-be wife and baby daughter are waking up.

It's a shift which, 14 years ago, changed a first-year constable's purpose as a policeman and one which has since gone on to expose him to the kind of ugliness at the heart of the Chronicle's #HandsOff campaign.

Snr Const Bleakley had only just left the academy when he was confronted with a scene that has never left him.

A young man, about the same age, had been assaulted outside a Hervey Bay pub and was lying unconscious in a pool of blood.

Training had prepared him for dealing with trauma, but as he stood on the path and looked at the victim, he was overcome.

"I hadn't expected the amount of blood or what it would look like," Snr Const Bleakley said.

"It was almost glowing red and on a grey background it just didn't look real."

The victim survived, but not without serious injury, and following a stint out west, Snr Const Bleakley returned to Hervey Bay where curbing alcohol-related violence has been at the centre of his job ever since.

As Liquor Accord representative, he has been instrumental in overseeing government-based and uniquely local measures.

While violence can occur at any time, it's the night shift that sees drug and alcohol fuelled rage at its peak.

Encounters with intoxicated people can sometimes prove amusing - most recently Snr Const Bleakley had to help a woman who believed she was a "walnut sailing on the ocean" - but the scourge of alcohol and drugs can bring out the worst in people who would not otherwise draw the attention of police.

Snr Const Bleakley said, while assaults were on the decline, the message seemed not to be getting across to a minority who continued to risk their lives and the lives of others.

Often tasked with the heavy burden of informing a family of the death of a relative, Snr Const Bleakley said while he had dealt with many a near-fatal assault, he was grateful to have never seen a young person die as a result of assault - and he hopes he never has to.

"There is nothing quite as difficult as turning up at a doorstep and telling someone their loved one is not coming home," he said.

"Research, education and the example of those whose lives have been lost around the country are slowly making a difference but there doesn't seem to be a clear answer."

Topics:  campaign, fraser coast chronicle, #handsoff, hervey bay police, safety, violence




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